Something about Bill Clinton's second term seems to have struck a strange chord in Hollywood, to judge by the recent rash of funny-business-at-the-White House movies (Absolute Power, this and the forthcoming Murder At 1600). Shadow Conspiracy adopts the Oklahoma bomber's vision of Our Government At Work, revealing to trouble-shooting senator Charlie Sheen (haha!) and gutsy news-hen Linda Hamilton (gasp!) that there exists within the White House a shadow government of wicked conspirators who employ silent hit man Stephen Lang to do away with their political opponents.
This is the sort of film in which informants are shot in the head from across the street just as they are about to reveal the name of the traitor behind the scheme (oh come on!), a big-shot senator relaxes by shooting a few hoops with a bunch of street-corner guys (as if!) and an entire administration puts its trust in Donald Sutherland (what, after Outbreak and Disclosure?). Once Sheen is tipped off that there's a conspiracy, which may well lead to the unseating of cuddly President Sam Waterston in favour of growly vice-prez Ben Gazzara, then he is forced to hook up with his ex-girlfriend Linda and run about the city narrowly avoiding getting shot while the hi-tech baddies track him with satellite snoopery.
Shadow Conspiracy isn't quite a laff riot, because Charlie - who must have been about tenth choice for the role of a dynamic politician - plods rather glumly between action scenes staged with very little flair by long-time hack Cosmatos. Charlie and Linda dangle in a lift-shaft, Charlie and Linda tackle a psycho on top of their car, Charlie and Linda work out who the villain is (surprise!), Charlie and Linda foil an assassination attempt with balloons. This has a good cast (you even get Gore Vidal) and tries hard to remind you of The Parallax View and The Manchurian Candidate, but you'll want to vote with your feet.